I am the first to admit it: I am homebody. Saturday night out? More like Saturday night on my couch in my leopard print onesie, with Netflix and a glass of wine. If I'm feeling super lazy, I may also slip on my snuggie and a heated blanket. No need to tell me how cool I am, I know it.
On top of being a homebody, I am also a classic introvert. While I do enjoy the occasional night out, I lose a lot of energy from being around large groups of people. Some people love going out and meeting new people, but the idea of being a single face in a large crowd makes my stomach turn over. It's not that I don't like to socialize now and again, it's just that it takes so much energy for me. After a night out like that, I am usually drained.
Conversely, although it may seem like I am a boring shut-in who shuns socialization, I love to travel, see new things, explore. It's been difficult for me to reconcile my general homebody-ness with my love of traveling. They don't seem to go hand in and--how can one be an introvert/ homebody and love to travel? Seems like a contradiction to me. Incidentally, living abroad could be, at times, very difficult for me. I never was and never will be a hard partying discotecer who goes out all weekend and comes home at 7 AM, and it can be hard for me to make friends because when I first met people I am pretty quiet and reserved. But traveling is one of my passions.
I've been trying to gather together my thoughts regarding this matter. I think that a lot of homebodies and introverts have the desire to live abroad, but are too nervous that their personalities won't lend themselves to friendships nor allow them to thrive; while they enjoy being alone, they are, at the same time, scared of being alone....if that makes sense.
But there are ways for us homebodies and introverts to get the most out of living abroad. Living abroad isn't just for outgoing, fiercely independent individuals and introverts should not be afraid to travel and live abroad. If I can do it, anyone can do it! After thinking it over, some things that helped me through the experience were:
- Taking photos from home and hanging them around my piso. Images of my family and friends made my very temporary apartment seem a little more homey to me.
- Personalizing my living space in general. While it obviously didn't make sense to purchase any "big" homey items, I still made it a case to go out and buy things like candles and throw blankets, which helped make me feel more comfortable in my piso.
- Recognizing when I needed some "me" time. Many travel bloggers talk about never saying "no" to any experience when traveling abroad, so maybe this point is a bit contentious, but it was important for me to recognize when I was drained and needed to recuperate with a night to myself. When I am in the mood to go out, I think that I am really fun--I actually have an alias named "Party Shannon" (my boyfriend made it up) who comes out from time to time and goes a little wild. But, when I am drained of energy I get irritable and cranky, which is not fun for me nor the people I am with. This meant turning down some nights out. For me, it was all about picking and choosing. Sometimes this meant staying in on a Friday night, other times it meant going out but coming home at 3 AM instead of 7 (honestly, I'm still impressed that I managed to stay out until 3:30 on several occasions). I just had to recognize when it was a "Party Shannon" night, and when it wasn't.
- Along with that point, I needed to admit to myself that I am introverted and a homebody. I never wanted to think of myself that way because it doesn't seem fun or exciting. Even when I look at photos of others out at crazy festivals like the Running of the Bulls or La Tomatina, I get wistful because I feel like I am missing out on cultural experiences--I wish that events like those were fun to me. But they're not, and I shouldn't force myself to go out and party like that when it is not who I am.
- Remembering that traveling is about seeing, living, learning, and those mean different things for different people.
- Above all, remembering that living abroad does mean having to go out of your comfort zone from time to time. Even though I do not think that I am a particularly brave individual, it does take a bit of courage to live in another country. Whenever I started to feel overwhelmed by a situation, I had to remember that I couldn't go home and hide my head under the covers....and I would take a deep breath and remind myself that I could and would get through it. Part of traveling means being a little uncomfortable at times. Even though there were many instances in which I had to step outside of my comfort zone, I have grown as a person and am better for it.
Any other introverts/homebodies out there who can offer any advice on this matter? I'm a little embarrassed to be exposing this personal side of me, but I really would like to be more well-equipped to help all of my students and peers who are asking for advice....